London Art Spot: Holly Somers

If you walk down Carnaby Street right now, you’ll see a wintery scene in the windows of the Deisel shop called “Paper vs. Scissors” with delicate paper cut-out trees and mannequins with blank faces and big white hair. This is the work of Holly Somers, a recent graduate of London College of Fashion and joint winner of the Nina De York Illustration Award 2010.

Her debut collection takes the simple practices of folding, pleating and layering to the next level with inspiration from Japanese origami in rich, earthy tones perfect for this time of year. There’s a selection of images below for this week’s London Art Spot and for a more expansive look at the origami collection, there’s a great blog post here.

Read on to hear about Holly’s favourite gold blazer, where her love of a great fabric leads her on days out in the shops around here and her thoughts that went into the design of the Deisel shop window display.

LLO: Give us an overview of your latest Japanese origami-inspired collection.
HS: Throughout my design career, I have always had an interest in and an admiration for Japanese design and in particular Japanese fashion. Working with initial origami maquettes, I was able to experiment with unusual shape construction on a small scale before transferring it on to the body. This quickly led to the development of manipulating a two dimensional form to create a three dimensional object, both in paper, but then more naturally in fabric and garment construction. I was fascinated with the juxtaposition of woven fabrics with stretch fabrics and the intrinsic properties of these opposing materials. This concept became integral to the design and success of the garments as fabric manipulation extended beyond simple folding, pleating and layering. Much of the silk was transformed through interfusing before the fabrics were even cut altering the nature of the fabric to suit the needs of each garment. This collection became an exploration.

LLO: You created the lovely Paper vs. Scissors display in the Female Diesel shop windows on Carnaby Street. What was your thought process when given the brief through deciding on your final designs?
HS: The Window Installation was a fantastic opportunity to step into the world of visual merchandising and with the paper theme I could build on ideas from my previous collection but move it away from the body.  Diesel wanted a white paper forest to appeal to the Christmas season, however, it had to keep the edge that the Diesel brand upholds. I researched back over many artists who had manipulated paper for art installations with a focus on paper cutting rather than folding as before. I began experimenting drawing over tree designs using Adobe Illustrator to create intricate, ambiguous tree stencils that could be laser cut for the window. Design ideas went from broken chairs to be stacked up like tree trunks, rotating lights casting stencil silhouettes on the walls to importing large quantities of branches and logs from the Cotswolds to act as support and structure for the installation; from 8ft wooden trees attached to the store facing to laser cut paper creepers pasted to the woodwork like vines encompassing the store in a tangled forest. The concept also had to translate to the Male Diesel store so we attached hundreds of laser cut scissors to trees there to convey the idea that the boy’s trees had cut up the paper girl’s trees. Despite a great deal of design development there was still an aspect of improvisation on the installation nights, especially to deal with the restraints that come from the location being first and foremost a working shop. Working alongside the team at StudioXag was a great: logistically, technically and creatively.

LLO: Where’s your favourite place in London for fashion inspiration – both in the shops and on the streets?
HS: London as a city is a fantastic source of inspiration in itself with the endless resources available to anyone who lives here. The markets, libraries and museums are  perfect places to contemplate design ideas; especially the Design Bookshop in the V&A. However, since  moving here, I find walking along the South Bank at night when the city is alight one of the most inspiring places to be.LLO: Give us a hint at some of the upcoming fashions in London for next season?
HS: London’s fashion strives to be new and exciting playing to a more youthful clientele where the idea of design and creativity is pushed to the limit when the factor of wearability often comes into play. I feel that next season London designers will continue in this way, however there is definitely starting to be a move to more accessible collections as individual designers’ stylistic tastes are becoming more refined and therefore subtler in their portrayal.

LLO: Which aspects of your designs make them uniquely yours?
HS: Detail. In everything that attracts me, inspires me or interests me it is always the detail that captures my attention. The cleverness of an idea or the way something has been cut. It does not have to be complex but it provokes thought. I want my work to engage people in this way; for them to see and to appreciate the detail and depth of an idea.

LLO: Who is the target audience for your work? Do your designs transfer easily from the catwalk to the streets?
HS: My work is aimed at women aged from mid-twenties to mid-thirties with an understanding and appreciation of fashion, fabric and cut who will find innovative creations in my work that augments their style and femininity. I feel my designs could be diffused from the catwalk to the streets especially as jersey is a very popular fabric to work with at the moment. However, my collection relied on using high end fabrics to create the desired effect. Replacements can be found to cater to the high street market and price-point though the results would still be different. The joy in designing for the catwalk is there is not always a mass market and a low cost budget to consider. As a designer you have more manoeuvrability.

LLO:  Which piece are you most proud of so far and why?
HS: The gold blazer from my collection. It was ironically one of the easier pieces to design as it seemed to design itself on the stand. After working on something for so many months I am often too close to my work to appreciate it, however for some reason I could still relate to this piece and enjoy wearing it myself. It is an example of an idea that remained strong from the initial sketch to its final fruition and therefore I am proud that it is mine.

LLO:What are your favourite materials to work with and the best places to buy them in London?
HS: For me, fabrics are of the utmost importance in a collection, so I take great pleasure in searching around fabric shops and showrooms to discover what is available. Shepherd’s Bush is a great place for toiling fabrics and there is a particular shop on Goldhawk Road which sells fantastic wools. There are a few showrooms along Great Titchfield Street that act as agents for factories and mills across the world. These places are ideal as you can touch and feel samples and quickly discover the vast range of fabrics that are on offer. I particularly love working with jersey and I actually sourced all of my silk jersey from Japan for my last collection.

LLO: You recently graduated from London College of Fashion and won the highly acclaimed Nina de York Illustration Award wowing people with your designs. What’s next for you?
HS: I want to keep experimenting in a range of Fashion Design disciplines. My loyalty will always remain with garment design and this is where I wish to build my career, however I feel that working in visual merchandising, buying and accessories, etc., all feeds my creativity and I hope to remain as creative a designer as possible. To study in Paris would be a fantastic opportunity and there are MBA courses that appeal to me greatly. However, I intend to gain further experience in the industry over the next few years before I embark on further education.

LLO: Any other up-and-coming London-based designers we should keep an eye on?
HS: Joanna Pritchard. I have known Jo throughout my time at London College of Fashion and she is a very talented, unassuming designer. Her minimalist style has a wide-ranging appeal but her detail attracts a closer scrutiny. Jo has just started an MA Womenswear Design course at Central St Martins and I cannot wait to see her move from strength to strength and produce an astounding collection.

Thanks Holly!

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London Art Spot: Ruweyda Dool

Through her course at London College of Communication, designer Ruweyda Dool has built up a stunning portfolio of elegant collections for both women and men. A passion for African culture, fabrics with ethnic prints and attention to detail made her models stand out on her recent runway show. 2010 has brought the focus over to her latest colourful jewellery collection and a venture into menswear that she is thoroughly enjoying.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Ruweyda, who is also interested in photography, shows off a few of her designs worn by some gorgeous models, talks about her African/ethnic collection you’ll see in some of the photos and tells us where her work is headed.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity?
Everything really, even if it’s like the littlest thing. Different things influence my creativity at different times.

LLO: Give us an overview of your latest African/Ethnic collection.
It’s an eclectic fusion of colour inspired by the vibrancy of African culture with a Western twist. The influence is to capture the colour and warmth of AFRICA and what it represents.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of and why?
Every piece has had its moments, however, I think the two pieces that have had most exposure and feedback as well as photographed beautifully are a long, light blue, v-shape bust dress with boning at the bottom and a natural disaster themed dress where the fabric has been digitally printed with my design.

LLO: Who is your target audience?
 Ages: 16 – 30 both males and females

LLO: What are your favourite materials to work with and the best places to buy them in London?
The best place to buy fabric is central London. As for my favourite fabrics, I don’t really have one as they all do different things, but I did really enjoy working with the African fabrics as the manipulations and drape of them are different to other fabrics.

LLO: You’ve dipped into menswear as well. Is this something you plan to expand on?
Yeah, definitely I’m really enjoying menswear at the moment and I’m positively looking to expand in both the male and female areas.

LLO: Which fashion trends should we look out for when Autumn collections hit London’s shops?  
The fabrics that will be popular this Autumn/Winter are: leather, velvet and sheer fabrics. Military-style and cut out garments will also be evident.

LLO: Favourite place in London to people watch for inspiration?
Depending on what you’re into, inspiration is everywhere whether it’s the type of music you listen to, art, photography, colours or the feel of fabrics, etc…

LLO: Other up-and-coming London-based designers we should keep an eye on?
I don’t have any designers I can think of at the top of my head right now, but London is a very competitive city to live in and talent is everywhere.

LLO: What’s next on the agenda for you?
Well, I guess I’ll have to see what the world has in store for me. However, I’m looking to really build on my menswear collections.

Thanks Ruweyda!

For more about Ruweyda and her work, see her website:

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Listen to a Londoner: Alberto “Pelos” Comesana and Xavier Izaguirre

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email Always looking for new volunteers.

Alberto “Pelos” Comesana, 29

Xavier Izaguirre, 26

These two Spanish guys came to London thinking they would have a great time, an easy life and maybe work a little bit. Instead, they had to work tons and combat their way through all the kinks London threw at them along the way. So they set up a  website called Combat London where they help fellow Londoners to survive in the city without sacrificing fun! 

LLO: Where are you guys from, how did you end up in London and how long have you been here?
PC & XI:
We’re both from Vigo, a small city in North Spain, on the Atlantic coast. We got acquainted in our high school years and became good friends studying at the same uni. After graduating in summer 2006, we decided to come to London together, like everyone does to improve their basic English skills. Since that time, we’ve each spent a few years in the city, although during different periods of time.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your website Combat London.
PC & XI: Combat London was launched as a means to help all those people who are new in town and need advice, just like we needed it (and still do, in all fairness) when we had just arrived. We try to cover all aspects of living in London on a budget, such as money-managing, flatshare and job hunting, knowing London shows no mercy as the second most expensive city in the world. At the same time, we truly believe you can still have a lot of fun spending very little money, and do our best to find the best free things in town.

LLO: I hear you’re into the techno scene. Where are the best places in London to lose yourself in the music?
Loads. Fabric does good nights from Friday to Sunday. Then I like the T-Bar. Some nights we just go from one place to another so you need to pay attention to flyers, blogs and word of mouth. Or ask us. Sundays are also great for dancing and you can’t go wrong with Secret Sundaze, HalfBaked, Looke, 93 or 1001.

LLO: Combat London is all about surviving on a budget. Give us a few of your top tips for saving money in this expensive city without sacrificing fun?
Honestly, there’s a whole lot of cash to be saved if you are smart. You can free haircuts all over the city, attend awesome parties for free, get free coffees or samples of any kind in many places, spend half the money at the supermarket by buying wisely, try on clothes at any high-street retailer to later buy them online at lower prices…

XI: To me, it is all about organising yourself and knowing the tricks. You can eat very well in a thousand places for £5, so why would you pay £15? The problem is those places won’t advertise or be located on the main road. You have to go off the beaten track.

LLO: What’s the most unique or unusual experience you have had in London so far?
I’ll tell a bad one. In our first flatshare back in 2006, we found out the cleaner we had coming once a week (who was in fact the landlord’s cousin) was stealing our checkbooks and trying to get money out of our accounts. Good for us our income was so crap that the amount asked for was too much and the payments never got through to our relief. (laughs) Things like these encouraged us to help other people survive in London by creating Combat London.

XI: And I will tell you a good one. One night I was at Fabric and I went to the loo for a wee (bear with me here). After 10 seconds I looked up and Richie Hawtin was next to me minding his own business. Richie Hawtin is for techno what Pele is for football or Lady Gaga for mainstreams. I did chat with him a minute (he was playing right that moment so he couldn’t spare more than two seconds). Pretty special.

LLO: Tell us about someone, somewhere or something really cool that you’ve discovered in London and think the rest of us should know about.
I’d definitely go for Greenwich. I find it a one-of-a-kind place. Starting the afternoon in the flee market to buy unique marshmallows, carbing up to march up the hill to to the Observatory through the park and finishing off at that genuine pub on the river where Dickens used to write his novels, inspired by the great views. A winner.

XI: And I’d go for Shoreditch. Full of bars, pubs, clubs and cool shops. It also has great restaurants. It is very authentic and original. Just by walking the streets you feel yourself bemused with the art, the people, the places…

LLO: We want to go on a pub crawl. Suggest an itinerary?
PC & XI:
You can start in the Wetherspoons of Liverpool Street station. It is roomy and cosy, they do cheap pints and you will easily manage a table. Next you can go to Comercial Tavern, with its wacky but stylish decoration. Further down Commercial Street you can check in The Light, for its beer garden and great atmosphere. You still alright? Adventuring in Shoreditch territory there’s Elbow Room with a pool table and also a ping pong table. Sofas are never too busy to lounge on them, which will be convenient taking into account your level of drunkness you have by now. A few places up towards Hoxton there is the Bar Music Hall, with rare live gigs and the brightest toilets I have ever seen. Marvel at how small your pupils look with lights that make you think you’re in the hospital. Relax, you’re not. Lastly, take a peek at 333. Any dizziness can be shaken off with a few wiggles to the tunes. 

LLO: You say yourself that “living in London can be considered a little war sometimes”. Give us an example of a time when you had to break out the combat skills.
This one happened very recently. I had delivered a few lessons before the course I conducted got cancelled not having enough students to make it profitable. I still needed to get paid for them but my employer was AWOL and ignoring my emails. So we had to pretend we were teachers from a school in Italy interested in my employer’s language centre,  who wanted to meet him in London to discuss availability. We set him up in a Starbucks and got my money without ending in violence . I’m not a violent person, but I’m a hardcore action movie fan, which gave me the edge to sucessfully pull off such shakedown (laughs).

XI: I particularly remember how well we would blag our way to jobs with made-up experience. We would also lie about our long term plans, saying we were here for good, or that we weren’t gonna go home for Christmas. Until recently, I’ve always seen employers and HR people as enemies.

LLO: I need a break from the city rush but can’t afford a plane ticket to warmer climes. Any suggestions on how to escape the work-obsessed war zone without actually leaving the city?
PC & XI:
Now that the weather isn’t that bad, we suggest going to any of the so green and lovely parks in the city. I’d say Primrose Hill for the amazing view when the sun sets and Hampstead Heath for its size and the chances to dip in the ponds.

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you send me to eat and drink?
PC & XI:
 It is your last night, so you deserve some luxury. Even the most combat people can afford (and should allow) one night of carefree-ness. Go to Tower 42 and order a sharing platter and lichee & champagne cocktail (you brought the debit card right?). The views are amazing, a great way to step aside and have a think. Top stuff!

Thanks Alberto and Xavier!

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